In a regular day like any other, in an instant, in less than a blink of an eye an evil and powerful monster woke up inside of me. It was a mega inner earthquake that left a crack that separates my history with a before and after.
This terrifying “thing” started chasing me more than twenty years ago.
It didn't matter if I was in class in front of my teachers and classmates, it didn't matter if I was at Starbucks having a warm delicious coffee, or if I was at the hair saloon, or at the gas station, or getting groceries, or having a nice conversation with a neighbor. This evil force would take me for surprise, a surprise that didn’t include a cake or a piñata.
This evil force, “the monster,” tried to control my whole life, but when it couldn’t completely do it, it would be quietly waiting for me at any corner.
I was in my twenties when I felt it the first time. I was in a nice restaurant in Madrid talking to my father and my first husband. My sister was going to move to Spain to live with my parents. For some reason my father started complaining about her. My body stiffened. His eyes behind his glasses. Heart racing. His mouth moving. Sweaty hands. All around me disappeared. Pitch black. Puff. Fighting for my life. I felt like my heart was going to explode. I could see my shirt moving. My hands on the left side of my chest trying to stop it from popping out of my body. Falling through an endless hole. Empty stomach. Nausea. Gasping for air. A golf ball stuck in my throat. I’m dying.
My father and my husband rushed me to the hospital. “I can’t believe that this is it! I’m dying in a very stupid way here! Now? Why now?” The nurse asked me to lay down and wait. “What’s wrong here, don’t you see I’m dying?” My wound was invisible.
I began feeling better. Perfect, yeah just freaking perfect! They sent me home. The diagnosis, “You had an anxiety attack.” What?! Are you fucking kidding me? I almost freaking died! Do you think that I’m joking? Embarrassed. Humiliated. Nobody believed me. I felt stupid, period. I was definitely going nuts!
The next days I kept questioning myself. “What happened to me? Am I going crazy? Did I miss something?”
I reviewed second by second of what happened hoping to find anything that I was missing, if there was any possibility that I was creating the situation or overreacting, or if I ate something bad, anything that could help me to find a good explanation.
A few days later I was on the bus coming home from work. I could see the steam coming from people’s mouths through the window. It happened again. Heart racing. Pain. Bent over. Falling. Falling. Empty stomach. I don’t want to die. Falling. Nausea. Breathless. I tried to ask for help, “Please take me to the hospital. I’m dying.” The bus driver looked up to see me from the mirror, “I can’t stop Miss, when I drop everybody off I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“That’s it,” I thought, “I’m going to die here, and nobody cares.” Fighting for my life, “Just hold on, you can do it,” I asked for help from the people around me, but they were trying so hard to look away while taping their foot or finger. I focused even harder to make it to the hospital, “You can, you can.” After the bus driver dropped everybody off, he took me to the hospital. He stopped the vehicle right in from of the building and said with his eyes on the windshield, “This is the hospital.” The automatic door opened.
I don’t remember how I made it to the emergency room, but I did.
The nurse asked me to lay down on a stretcher and wait. I heard conversations with other patients, with the staff, I saw the cleaning lady going to every cubicle. Nobody checked on me. A doctor showed up and gave me a small pill that he put under my tongue. Tipsy. After a while I was perfect, like the healthiest woman on the planet. “Go home you are ok. Try to relax.” What? Are you calling me crazy? What do you mean I have to relax? Is it my fault to feel like dying?
When I got home I didn’t have tachycardia, I was able to breath without making any effort, I didn’t have any pain or nausea, and most important I wasn’t scared of dying. But I was disconcerted. I couldn’t stop thinking that there was something very wrong with me, how could I feel that I was dying and then feel perfect? Two days later it happened again, then every other day, then everyday, and then several times a day. Days turned in weeks, weeks turned in months, and months into years. Not one doctor explained to me what I was suffering from, and I thought I was close to being locked in a special institution or buried underground. That plain explanation of having a stupid anxiety attack is impossible to process when you feel that you are kissing this world goodbye everyday.
The monster added an additional burden to my life, everything was about surviving and fighting this new powerful “being.” Fight, fight, fight, survive, survive, survive.
Note: I’m going to talk about panic attacks in more depth in future posts.
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